By Moses Michael-Phiri
BLANTYRE, Malawi (AA) - Tropical Storm Ana has killed 19 people and displaced thousands of families in southern Malawi, authorities said Wednesday.
The Department of Disaster Management Affairs (DoDMA) reported that 216,972 people are homeless while 107 are injured.
“So far, we have recorded 10 deaths, but we fear the number might go up as some people are missing,” an official told Anadolu Agency by phone.
Red Cross Society national response team member Chawezi Tembo said a search and rescue operation is underway in the district.
“There is an urgent need for an airlift evacuation as water levels are still rising due to continued rainfall. The number of people trapped is not yet known,” Tembo said.
The southeast African nation of over 20 million people also plunged into darkness after floods damaged part of the country’s main hydropower plant, forcing it to shut down.
Electricity will take days to be fully restored as heavy winds have brought down power lines in most parts of the country, the company said.
Water pumping stations into cities have stopped working due to the lack of power, resulting in water shortages in all four major cities of Blantyre, Zomba, Lilongwe and Mzuzu.
The Ministry of Education temporarily suspended classes at all public schools in the southern region to protect the lives of students in the affected areas.
The storm, which made landfall in northern Mozambique on Monday, brought widespread flooding and is estimated to have destroyed almost 600,000 hectares of agriculture crops, especially in Malawi’s southern districts.
Heavy damage has also been caused to infrastructure such as roads, bridges and buildings.
Disaster and Management Affairs Commissioner Charles Kalemba said they have deployed a search and rescue team comprising the defense force, police, and the Department of Marine Services.
“They will have to assist the Malawi Red Cross Society in rescuing people feared to be trapped,” Kalemba said in a statement.
Malawi is one of the developing countries bearing the brunt of climate change, which has made weather-related disasters more frequent.
In 2009, Cyclone Ida killed 59 and affected 900,000 people in the country.